On 19 August 1936 Hercules the boxer stands on the quayside at Coruña and watches Fascist soldiers piling up books and setting them alight. With this moment a young carefree group of friends are transformed into a broken generation. Out of this incident during the early months of Spain's tragic civil war, Manuel Rivas weaves a colourful tapestry of stories and unforgettable characters to create a panorama of twentieth-century Spanish history. For it is not only the lives of Hercules the boxer and his friends that are tainted by the unending conflict, but also those of a young washerwoman who sees souls in the clouded river water and the stammering son of a judge who uncovers his father's hidden library.
As the singed pages fly away on the breeze, their stories live on in the minds of their readers.
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It's time for reviewers and sundry pundits to quit the flattering comparisons with Lorca, Joyce and Garcia Marquez. Manuel Rivas reads like no-one else on the planet...one of those novels to lavish on friends... Manuel Rivas' sweeping novel, translated into English for the first time, is an undoubted classic - Scotsman
This is an exceptional book by an exceptional writer... a unique literary enterprise - Independent
A novelistic tour-de-force...hauntingly poetic use of language and light touch...Rivas never loses faith in the human ability to overcome the bleakest of situations - Irish Times
His most substantial work to date - London Review of Books
His boldest take yet on the war's repercussions in his native Galicia... a work of unusual beauty - Financial Times
The author reinvigorates the power of the word, the heritage of stories which pass from generation to generation. - El Mundo
Manuel Rivas writes with lyrical depth about the burning and pillaging of books whose existences are intertwined with a story of suspense that condemns authoritarianism and extols freedom... A novel that could have been history or biography, but is instead a work of literature written by an author at the height of his powers. - El País
Rivas weaves a tapestry of characters into an event that is largely overlooked in history - Big Issue North
Manuel Rivas was born in A Coruña in 1957. He writes in the Galician language of north-west Spain. He is well known in Spain for his journalism, as well as for his prize-winning short stories and novels, which include the internationally acclaimed The Carpenter's Pencil. His works have been translated into twenty languages.